Mental health certificate earned for first time

The College of Nursing announced its first group of students certified in Mental Health First Aid earlier this month.

These students are to be the first of hopefully many said professor Leah Johnston-Rowbotham, M.S., A.P.R.N., B.C.,

Rowbotham, a nurse practitioner in behavior health was the clinical instructor for the group of students and organized the groups’ certification courses.

The students were certified by Mental Health First Aid – USA, an organization whose goal is to “help the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders,” according to the organization’s website.

Students were required to attend two six-hour training sessions on different days.

At these sessions, students were taught the skills necessary to know how to react and help in situations that involve people with mental disorders.

Students were also taught how to de-escalate situations that involved those with mental illnesses, Rowbotham said.

“The course was lecture-style mixed with interactive activities,” senior nursing major Ruth Alexandre said. She also said that students learned the proper way to asses situations, intervene in crises, and how to but those affected in contact with those who can offer appropriate care.

“This experience really helped better prepare me for psychiatric wards,” graduate nursing major Sheila Ferguson said. “It helped being able to apply myself, and it will help me to better assist and help others. Everyone in health care should take the course.”

According to Alexandre: “It is important for people to know potential risk factors and warning signs for mental health problems. It is also important for people to know how to handle these situations and how to get help.”

Rowbotham submitted the proposal for the certification course funds to the dean of nursing, Dr. Phyllis Hansel, who allotted the funds to pay for the groups’ certifications.

“I was delighted that the Dean supported us,” Rowbotham said. “It was a real vote of confidence, and it is really great that (the College of Nursing) are looking forward.”

Eventually Rowbotham hopes that all Seton Hall faculty, staff, and students can be certified.

Rowbotham has applied and plans to get her instructor certification so she can make this idea possible.

The goal of Mental Health First Aid – USA is to reduce the stigma towards people with mental health issues, Rowbotham explained, so taking this course will enable the student body to be more prepared and comfortable around those with mental illnesses.

“This matters. This is important,” Rowbotham said. “The more you know about mental health, the less you are afraid and the more comfortable you are with people who have a mental illness.”

Victoria Plate can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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